Things I Wish I Knew Long Before I Knew Them (Writing-related)
1. You really don't need an agent until you really do need one and then you'll get one. I spent years - as do many people - thinking all I needed was an agent and then I'd be on my way to writing success. When I finally did get an agent, it was because I actually had material that other people might be interested in. Until then, though, I wasn't ready for one; all I had was junk.
Lesson: spend no time worrying about an agent until you actually have a finished product (or several) and have had that product vetted by friends and trusted readers. Just write the best thing you can. Seriously.
2. More important than a big advance is the marketing plan a publisher has for your book and you. So much thinking time is wasted on how much of an advance a writer is getting for her book. A large number would indicate a writer is more valued and to a certain extent this is true, if she is a humongous name like a Barbara Walters or a Jackie Collins. But aside from a terrific editor (who has a huge influence on your book), a visible marketing push is what you want from your publisher. That has far more of an effect on sales than anything else.
Lesson: ask questions of a publisher regarding their plans for marketing your book and be willing to take less if a competitor can offer more advertising, etc.
3. A publicist can be a good investment if you are not getting the marketing from your publisher. And sometimes even then, it's not bad if you can afford it. I had heard from other sources that you should spend whatever advance money you get on publicity and promotion yourself and I never realized just how true that was. I did a little of this with my first book but not enough with the second. Again, it's super important to have the lines of communication open with your publisher so you know what and when things are planned for you. And if things change, you need to know that too so you can jump on the promotion yourself. I could have started on this for my second book a LOT sooner than I did.
Lesson: stay in touch with your publisher and know exactly what is planned and then seriously consider a publicist of your own to promote the book, preferably 3 months in advance of the book's release. This is an investment in you, remember.
4. The Internet and blog reviewers are extremely important, especially if you are writing for the YA market. Jump on this right away. I didn't understand Myspace and Facebook and how to find bloggers who review books so when my first book was coming out, I hadn't been in touch with any so I could have my publisher send galley copies to them for review. And I spent very little time on their sites, thinking that my own website and blog would generate traffic to Amazon and the bookstores. Ha! No, not at all. I wish I had spent more time getting to know online reviewers so I could have sent them both books for review. That would have generated more buzz about me and my books than my own blog and site.
Lesson: before the book is published - or even purchased - establish a web presence and get to know your potential readers. Their input is immeasureable. Plus you can learn an awful lot from other authors.
More to come...